Portable USB record player/cassette deck combo


I can't vouch for the sound quality of the Ion IT34 Duo Deck USB turntable/cassette deck but I sure dig the design. It runs on four AA batteries, fits in a backpack, and plays 78s -- perfect for a real old timey picnic. Would also be fun to build it into your auto's dash, like this fine car audio system of yesteryear! $50 from Amazon. "Ion IT34 Duo Deck Ultra-Portable USB Turntable with Cassette Deck"


  1. Two AAs?  I wonder how long it can spin 78s before needing new batteries.

    Still and all, kinda want.

    1. I have a basic Ion usb turntable and the power supply is 9v, there’s an internal speaker but it sounds like an earbud turned to maximum. It can record (and play but it’s a bitch) to a thumb-drive but it does it at a horrible 128kps, but luckily you can plug it directly to a computer and use Audacity (it came with some crappy software that requires iTunes).

    1. Horrible?  I could dub cd’s to a type IV metal tape with noise reduction off and it sounded the same to me as the cd.  Obviously I wasn’t using studio quality tools, but with the right pieces it sounded pretty damn good.

      1. I wasn’t using studio tools either, or even good home equipment, but I wasn’t getting CD quality without noise reduction.  Maybe most your CDs were from analog masters.  

        If I wanted to dub a CD to tape for home, I had a deck that had something that was kinda-sorta like HX Pro, something where the bias was variable, and Dolby C.  For the car, Type IIs and Dolby B.

        I don’t miss cassettes.

        1. On certain types of music I like the ‘fat & angry’ sound it can give, Skinny Puppy and hiphop. Also you can toss them around and never worry about scratches (or atleast a very reduced chance of scratching). 

          If it wasn’t for the fact that they’re very cheap and easy to reproduce I’d really hate CDs.

    2. I’ve got hundreds of old mixtapes that can’t currently be played unless I wanna go sit in the car, plus at least FOUR records that I have no means of listening to. Plus the good thing about tapes is if one offends you (by being terrible crap) you can pull its guts out, snap the thing in half, run over it in your car, etc. CDs are less satisfying to dispose of (and do NOT make good decorations), records smash up pretty good but simply deleting MP3s doesn’t have the “DIE, YOU AWFUL AWFUL MUSIC!” satifying feel. It could be argued that MP3s are more environmentally friendly, but they are less fun to destroy when necessary.

  2. Totally Neat-O!  Actually it uses 4 AAs according to the Amazon page.  Also you can connect via USB to a computer and convert the vinyl/cassette to digital.  Want. 

      1.  Assuming that has a ceramic cartridge like most of the super-inexpensive turntables (no need for a preamp) few record store owners would let you play unpayed for merchandise on it.  Ceramic cartridges are very hard on records and can cause audible damage after a very very low number of plays.

          1. Most likely not.  Regardless, without changing the tonearm you likely won’t get  a standard mount, and you definitely won’t get anti-skate or the tonearm pressure appropriate for a MM cart/stylus.

      1. You said:

        It runs on four AA batteries, fits in a backpack, and plays 78s…

        It’s very easy to misinterpret this to mean that it ONLY plays 78s rather than 78s in addition to 33.3s, 45s, etc. As an example of why this phrasing can be confusing, consider the following statement:

        “The car has a manual transmission, comes in red, and has a seat for the driver.”

        From this, do you think the car has a seat for the passenger?

        1. I also assume that it has wheels and doors and all those other things that cars usually come with. If you tell me that a refrigerator makes ice, I don’t assume that it doesn’t also chill food.

          1. True, but what if I tell you that:

            “This refrigerator makes ice, and can also chill meat.”

            Can the fridge chill fruits? While there would have been little doubt with the original statement, it’s not as clear with the latter. It’s the singling out of a specific item that causes confusion. In David’s original post, the singular item was 78s; in my first example, it was a driver’s seat; in the above example, it’s meat.

          2. Here is a different question. When you first read my post, did you actually think that it only played 78s (and not 33s)?

        2.  Given that if you go to a store right now that sells records, you might find a single 78 among the thousands of records, it can be reasonably assumed that this is not the only speed it plays. The ability to play a format only slightly more archaic than 16rpm, but not the two current ones, would make the market for this machine very very small indeed.

          1. When you first read my post, did you actually think that it only played 78s (and not 33s)?

            Yes, for about 4 or 5 seconds — essentially the time to say “It seems odd that it would only play 78s. Wait! That can’t be right, who would make a record player that doesn’t play 33s?” I suspect Brian Clark made the same mistake which lead to this thread.

          2.  But you feel ok now you’ve figured it out, right? Don’t let it get to you. Maybe go lie down for a bit?

      2. David — yes, it can play 78s…but not at 78 RPM. The Duo Deck only has platter speeds of 33 1/3 and 45. To convert 78s you’ll need something like Audacity to interpolate up to 78 RPM from the actual spin arte.

        Also note that Duo Decks don’t produce MP3s; you have to convert from its native format (WAV, I’m assuming) to your desired final format. For some folks this is great: more choice. For others, it simply adds more overly-technical work.

        Well, at least they’re using MM carts now, instead of those horrible ceramics. But really….IONs should only be used when all else has failed. If you have access to a good turntable with MM cartridge, do something like spend $175 on a Rega Fono Mini A2D phono stage with built-in 16/44.1 ADC outputting to USB.

        1. Hmm, $50 on something that will play records _and_ cassettes _and_ output them to USB, or $175 on something that requires more equipment to be of any use whatsoever.

          I’m glad my ears aren’t very good, it’s a lot cheaper this way.

  3. All the cheapie ions use terrible ceramic cartridges, don’t play anything you care about.  The market for these is likely people picking up old thrift shop vinyl, so probably won’t matter.

    1. ION’s newer stuff is using MM carts now. (For instance, here’s the $40 replacement stylus for the Duo Deck.) But, they’re large-tip — great for 78s, perhaps less so for newer, narrower grooves; and it’s anyone’s guess how well the tip is mounted to the cantilever…

  4. Ion turntables don’t sound very good.

    I’ve had an Ion ProfileLP for a few years, and I’ve gradually been discovering all its shortcomings:

    – This may just be the needle, but it tends to amplify certain types of high-frequency sounds, such as sss, sshh, and some types of clicks and pops.  I recently got a Stanton T.55, and when I compare digitized recordings of the same vintage vinyl records on both turntables (they both have integrated converters and offer a USB connection) I find that the Ion just picks up way more noise.

    – Bad tracking: at first, I thought it was just that my records were so scratched-up that it was inevitable, but after taking a record that would skip forwards or loop backwards a dozen times per side on the Ion, and playing it on the Stanton, suddenly, the needle stayed in the groove for the whole side, never skipping.

    I had digitized a good part of my vinyl collection using the Ion, and right now I’m redoing it all using the Stanton.

    I’m a mild audiophile (in that I can hear more than the average listener, but I don’t go out of my way to over-optimize everything, and I don’t buy overpriced, luxury audio equipment — the Stanton was only about 220$) but I sincerely think even a regular music listener will eventually get annoyed at all the issues with an Ion turntable.

    1. “Ion turntables don’t sound very good.”

      Most record players weren’t very good though, right? Before the fire I was using my mom’s old one and it seemed like the entire thing was made out of cardboard.

      Although I have noticed pronounced skipping on old records.

  5. It looks like the record isn’t supported out to the edge – wouldn’t the weight of the tone arm on the record tend to make it tip over to the one side?

    I don’t know – any turntable I’ve ever used did have a full one-foot diameter platter, but maybe it’s not strictly necessary.

  6. I’ve got one of these and the quality is OK. The vinyl quality is acceptable, but not wonderful. They are good for casual playing and if you only have a few albums you need to digitise I’d get one.

    They don’t tip to one side, and ironically (given some of the other comments) it doesn’t skip quite as much as my SoundLab turntable does.

    I’ve never tried it on batteries so I can’t comment on the lifespan, but mine only has a 33 and 45 setting, with the change to 78 being done in the software after digitising the output.Ironically, the tape quality is superb, and they come out really really well. I’ve had near CD quality sound from tapes that are 20+ years old.

  7. This is awesome. I can finally listen to all the old Greek pop and folk music from the 40s etc that I inherited.

  8. I wouldn’t trust ION to make a product that I’d want. It might look cool, but my retail experience with them would suggest that quality isn’t their biggest concern.

  9. If you want it just wait till it lands on a DOTD website.
    I ended up owning 2 of these types of record players (first one was not what was advertised, failed to play 45’s to the end, and made me sad.)
    The 2nd one was a “replacement” and came out of the box once (to verify contents), but I was so frustrated with the whole thing I never ended up trying it out.
    I liked the idea of converting some old albums that I can’t find mp3’s of, but the market seems to offer 2 choices… $50 (or way cheaper on the DOTD circuit) or $200+ solutions.  Nothing in-between and your getting what you pay for.

  10. I’ve got a Numark PT01 (same manufacturer). I don’t consider myself an audiophile but the sound quality is too poor for me. In both cases they have ceramic cartridges, you really want a magnetic one. I think some of the Crosley ones have magnetic cartridges, but I haven’t read a good review of any of them either.

  11. LPs and 78 rpm records have different size grooves.  They need different styli. 

    A conical LP stylus is typically about 0.7 mil at the tip (there are many other elliptical and fancier shapes and dimensions, seldom exceeding 1 mil in width).  A 78 stylus is typically 3 mil, 3-4 times the size.  Playing a 78 with an LP stylus will cause mistracking, which will result in distortion and grove damage.  Playing an LP or 45 with a 78 stylus will literally gouge out the groove. 

    Fifty years ago, “turnover” cartridges, with either two styli or a double-tipped stylus, were common.  Regrettably this was the mark of a low-end cartridge, usually crystal or ceramic, though my father had an early-1950s vintage Audac (mono) magnetic cart with two separate styli in a Garrard RC-80 changer.

    If you want to play both 78s and LPs, good moving-magnet and moving-iron cartridges are available with interchangeable styli.  But be aware that over the 78 era different record manufacturers used different cutting stylus sizes, so even the supposedly standard 78 rpm styli are a compromise in size. 

    Is this gadget any good?  Put it this way: $40-50 will buy you one of the very cheapest decent magnetic cartridges available – no preamp, no turntable, no arm.  You do the math.

    This does not look like something I would let within a city block of my LP collection.  IMO, it’s better to not play them at all, than to ruin them with low-end playback gear.  At least then when you finally get good playback gear, you’ll still have good records.

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